Which Video Conferencing Software Works Best for Online Mediation

Which Video Conferencing Software Works Best for Online Mediation

Moderated by Giuseppe Leone

If you are interested in Online Mediation and believe that the "visual" component is crucial for gaining the parties' trust in you and in the mediation process, you'll soon be faced with two questions:

 

>> Which video conferencing software shall I use?

>> And how can I try different software, test them, and pick the one I like the most?

 

In order to help you answer those questions, in the last 3 months a group of Virtual Mediation Lab mediators have done the following.

 

First, we prepared a list of 14 basic criteria that, in our view, a software should meet in order to work well for you and, more importantly, for the parties, who will participate in your online mediation in any way the prefer: with their PC, Mac, Ipad, Iphone, Android tablet or smart phone (or even a landline phone). Those 14 criteria are listed here - http://goo.gl/EAlBhf

 

Second,  we began to test some video conferencing software; we discussed how each of them met our 14 criteria;  and we video recorded our tests - so you can watch them and judge for yourself. To watch the video recordings of the tests we have run so far, click here http://goo.gl/PRdcaa

 

PLEASE NOTE -- Initially, we thought it was a good idea for us to grade (from 1 to 10) how well each software met our criteria.  But later we came to the conclusion that it is better if, again, you judge for yourself (1) what happened during our tests and (2) you decide how much importance to assign to our - or your own - criteria. 

 

To get this discussion forum started, please answer (for yourself or through this forum) these 3 questions:

 

1 - Software for Online Presentations and for Online Mediation

Our impression during our tests is that some video conferencing software (e.g. Adobe Connect, GotoMeeting, Webex, Fuze Meeting) seem to be primarily designed to run webinars. As a result, (1) they have roles like host, presenter, moderator, attendees; (2) their focus seems to be on the content of the presentation; (3) attendees can send questions to the host/presenter via chat or click an icon for raising their hand or a red flag.

Question: Do you consider Online Mediation similar to an Online Presentation? Or do you think they are 2 completely different things?

 

2 - Parties' Privacy

Some software, like Skype Premium , ooVoo and Vsee, require the parties to share their usernames; otherwise they can't see each other on the screen.

Question: If you were one of the parties (for example in a contentious divorce dispute) how would you like having to share your username with your soon-to-be-ex spouse? Would that bother you? Or no big deal?

 

3 - What an Video Conferencing Software Says About You

Some software - like Skype, ooVoo, Google Hangout - seem to have a "social", informal, Facebook-like feel . Some of them even allow you to apply filters (e.g. Zombie) to your face, if you so choose.

 

Question:  As an online mediator, are you OK with that informal feel? Or do you think that, in a sense, the software you use during an online mediation is also your "business card", your "virtual office", and therefore  it would be better if the parties have a more professional impression about you?

 

So, let's get this discussion forum on "The Best Video Conferencing Software for Online Mediation" started.  Please answer the above questions and feel free to ask any other questions you like about this important topic.

Moderator Bio:

Giuseppe Leone is the founder and project manager of Virtual Mediation Lab. VML is a pilot project sponsored by the ACR Hawaii to: (1) Help mediators improve their skills and learn to mediate online, by participating in online mediation simulations with other mediators; (2) Explore the next frontier for online mediation – Mobile Mediation. He has been practicing and teaching mediation since 1997. Giuseppe's Virtual Mediation Lab project is featured in the Summer 2013 issue on "Innovation and Conflict Resolution" of ACResolution, the quarterly magazine of the Association for Conflict Resolution.

 

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Replies to This Discussion

Giuseppe, you are the perfect person to address this very important topic!  Thanks for all your great, pioneering work in this area.

I have found that online presentation software, while very effective when used well (great examples at http://ofu2013.org) but for mediations the parties often find it overwhelming or confusing.

We've been experimenting with zoom.us and had some good experiences -- love to get your thoughts.  I know they've integrated some features specifically for ODR sessions.

Eventually I think videoconferencing may become standardized in the browser, or over HTML5.  When that happens, I think a lot of companies are going to go out of business!

rah

Hi Colin:

Our experience with Zoom (and the people behind it) has been great. Ever since (thanks to you) I discovered that software -- its outstanding video/audio quality and easy to use features -- we no longer use Skype for our online mediation simulations.

I don't know how the videoconferencing software will evolve. All I know is that it takes only a few minutes/hours to learn how to use a new piece of software, but it takes months/years to become an effective mediator.  That's why in our Virtual Mediation Lab we keep an eye on the technology but in the meantime we help mediators practice and improve their mediation skills, which they can apply in any way they see fit - online or face-to-face.

Giuseppe 



Colin Rule said:

Giuseppe, you are the perfect person to address this very important topic!  Thanks for all your great, pioneering work in this area.

I have found that online presentation software, while very effective when used well (great examples at http://ofu2013.org) but for mediations the parties often find it overwhelming or confusing.

We've been experimenting with zoom.us and had some good experiences -- love to get your thoughts.  I know they've integrated some features specifically for ODR sessions.

Eventually I think videoconferencing may become standardized in the browser, or over HTML5.  When that happens, I think a lot of companies are going to go out of business!

rah

Guiseppe - interested to know what commitments and disciplines you impose on the parties  preparatory to the session, eg as to lack of distractions in the room, confidentiality (no others in the physical room of the party unless disclosed and agreed ) , recording etc

Do you just do joint sessions or do you caucus within a session. If so what do you say to the party you are not caucusing with as to how to spend his time outside the 'room' - do you give him tasks etc. 

Graham

Giuseppe -- I'm always keeping my ear to the ground on videoconferencing.  I've long felt that it would be the killer app for ODR -- now I'm not so sure, as I think it's more useful in one-to-one, practitioner driven ODR than in high volume (where Modria is specializing)... but it still is hugely important.  I think I did my first videoconferencing demo during a Cyberweek in 2001!  It was pretty primitive, but it got the point across :)

I had a chat with Nica Faustino from Visions Connected last week.  He was introduced to me by Mike Lind, formerly with ADRGroup in the UK (and a very smart ADR guy) so I know Nica would understand the ADR market.  One of the things he said to me is that videoconferencing isn't a technology problem any more.  Pretty much anyone can figure out skype or webex, and there are a lot of reliable, quality video services out there.  The challenge is more of a human one -- can you be sure that when the time comes from your meeting, everything is going to work?  As a mediator, you may only get one chance to have everyone in your meeting... you have to be sure if you call that video session at 1pm on Wednesday that everyone is going to be able to connect on time, and they're going to have acceptable audio and video connectivity.  It doesn't work to say "let's use skype" and to pray that everything comes together.  So Nica's service works with any video platform, from skype all the way up totelepresence.  They do pre-calls to ensure everyone's system is configured correctly, and they can even offer operator support during the call to troubleshoot without disrupting the meeting.  That's what he means by video being a human support problem instead of a technology problem.  It's still pretty expensive, but if you've got a meeting that absolutely has to succeed, it's probably worth it.

The new videoconferencing services I have my eye on include:

http://bluejeans.com/

https://www.fuzebox.com/

http://meetings.io

http://www.anymeeting.com

...and of course zoom.us.  I agree with you it takes minutes to install a video client but a long time to figure out how to effectively mediate using it.  It is a different beast.  That's why I appreciate your continued work in helping people reach digital fluency!

rah

Graham:

"Commitments and Disciplines" - During our online mediation simulations and training mediators learn how to address all those (and other) important issues: with a pre-mediation session; during their opening statement; and also in the "Agreement to Mediate".

"Joint/Private Sessions" - Like in face-to-face mediation, online mediators should be able to set up and switch between joint and private sessions with the parties - as easily and effortlessly as possible. For example, after a joint session with both parties, an online mediator would say something like this:

~~~
Party 1 and Party 2, I think it would be useful if I can have a word with each of you privately, to understand better what's on your mind. Is that OK with both of you? (Let's suppose they both say Yes).

Party 1, is it OK then if I meet 10-15 minutes with Party 2, and then I will meet 10-15 minutes with you? (Let's suppose Party 1 says Yes).

Party 1, while you wait outside our online mediation room, can you think about X, Y, Z and tell me what you think when we get back together? (Let's suppose that Party 1 says Yes).

Okay, Party 1, I am going to hang up on you know... I'll see you later... in 10-15 minutes.

~~~

As shown by the simulations posted on our website, online mediators can perform all the tasks they would perform if they were face-to-face with the parties. Such possibility, however, depends much on the software being used, which ideally should be so intuitive, easy and simple to use to become "invisible" - particularly to the parties.

Giuseppe



Graham Ross said:

Guiseppe - interested to know what commitments and disciplines you impose on the parties  preparatory to the session, eg as to lack of distractions in the room, confidentiality (no others in the physical room of the party unless disclosed and agreed ) , recording etc

Do you just do joint sessions or do you caucus within a session. If so what do you say to the party you are not caucusing with as to how to spend his time outside the 'room' - do you give him tasks etc. 

Graham

A really good look at some of the different Live or "Real-Time" Online Mediation tools.  
I would probably encourage participants to post a business casual photo of themselves (a still photo) rather than the live videocam (unless that particular participant really prefers the videocam for them).
To be functional:
1. Many online mediation participants are going to need a "technology secretary" to handle all the tech windows/prompts/messaging so they can focus on what is being said.  
2. For the younger crowd, participants are really going to want an online mediation system that works on mobile devices, and works well.
3.  Cost has to be reasonable.
4. I would be cautious in an online mediation that participants don't get lost in oversharing on the online platform with the ease of a click of a button, huge volumes of info can be shared (somewhat permanently).  
I would probably prefer something a bit more structured for initially starting the mediation, 
e.g. required to put in your synopsis of the dispute (in writing, one paragraph), 
required to input what you feel are 3 crucial evidence/documents etc (in writing, list of 3 items).
Maybe that could be exchanged by participants prior to this mediation conference call and it is there for participants to review during the mediation process itsefl.  
I agree with Colin that the parties find the process overwhelming and confusing.  And maybe that is why having a Technology Secretary paired with them will help them through the stressful moments.  Because once they are overwhelmed - they will walk away and the mediation won't be a success.  Thank you Giuseppe!

Krista:

When with a group of mediators we tested Adobe Connect, we came to the conclusion that web conferencing software (e.g. Adobe Connect, GotoMeeting, Webex, FuzeMeeting, and so on) designed for online presentations/webinars don't work well for online mediation. Why? Because online presentations (with a host, presenter, and participants who can "raise their hand" if they have a question) and online mediation (with mediator and parties engaged from beginning to end in an interactive conversation) are 2 different animals.

In my view, the best way to judge an online mediation software is by putting ourselves in the parties' shoes. Ideally, for example, we should run simulations not only with mediators, but also with non-mediators -- people (consumers, small business owners, employees, supervisors) who have never participated in mediation (let alone online mediation) in their life. Unfortunately, all attempts I have made so far to find such people have not been successful.

As in indicated in a previous message I sent earlier to Graham, I believe that from the parties' perspective the technology we use for online mediation should be so intuitive, simple and easy to use to become "invisible". If that is possible (and I'm confident it is) what do they and we need a "technology secretary" for?

Giuseppe



Krista Grace Jessacher said:

A really good look at some of the different Live or "Real-Time" Online Mediation tools.  
I would probably encourage participants to post a business casual photo of themselves (a still photo) rather than the live videocam (unless that particular participant really prefers the videocam for them).
To be functional:
1. Many online mediation participants are going to need a "technology secretary" to handle all the tech windows/prompts/messaging so they can focus on what is being said.  
2. For the younger crowd, participants are really going to want an online mediation system that works on mobile devices, and works well.
3.  Cost has to be reasonable.
4. I would be cautious in an online mediation that participants don't get lost in oversharing on the online platform with the ease of a click of a button, huge volumes of info can be shared (somewhat permanently).  
I would probably prefer something a bit more structured for initially starting the mediation, 
e.g. required to put in your synopsis of the dispute (in writing, one paragraph), 
required to input what you feel are 3 crucial evidence/documents etc (in writing, list of 3 items).
Maybe that could be exchanged by participants prior to this mediation conference call and it is there for participants to review during the mediation process itsefl.  
I agree with Colin that the parties find the process overwhelming and confusing.  And maybe that is why having a Technology Secretary paired with them will help them through the stressful moments.  Because once they are overwhelmed - they will walk away and the mediation won't be a success.  Thank you Giuseppe!

Hi Colin:


Thank you for suggesting all that other software, which I haven't tested yet (except for Fuzebox).

Since online video conferencing is so crucial for the public acceptance of online mediation, I would love to put together a group of mediators and non-mediators (e.g. consumers, small business owners, landlords, tenants, employees, supervisors, union representatives). We could run and video record short online mediation simulations with different software, and hear all participants' candid feedback and first impressions.

Do you think such project could be useful? If so, any idea of which organizations might be interested to participate in it?

Giuseppe


Colin Rule said:

Giuseppe -- I'm always keeping my ear to the ground on videoconferencing.  I've long felt that it would be the killer app for ODR -- now I'm not so sure, as I think it's more useful in one-to-one, practitioner driven ODR than in high volume (where Modria is specializing)... but it still is hugely important.  I think I did my first videoconferencing demo during a Cyberweek in 2001!  It was pretty primitive, but it got the point across :)

I had a chat with Nica Faustino from Visions Connected last week.  He was introduced to me by Mike Lind, formerly with ADRGroup in the UK (and a very smart ADR guy) so I know Nica would understand the ADR market.  One of the things he said to me is that videoconferencing isn't a technology problem any more.  Pretty much anyone can figure out skype or webex, and there are a lot of reliable, quality video services out there.  The challenge is more of a human one -- can you be sure that when the time comes from your meeting, everything is going to work?  As a mediator, you may only get one chance to have everyone in your meeting... you have to be sure if you call that video session at 1pm on Wednesday that everyone is going to be able to connect on time, and they're going to have acceptable audio and video connectivity.  It doesn't work to say "let's use skype" and to pray that everything comes together.  So Nica's service works with any video platform, from skype all the way up totelepresence.  They do pre-calls to ensure everyone's system is configured correctly, and they can even offer operator support during the call to troubleshoot without disrupting the meeting.  That's what he means by video being a human support problem instead of a technology problem.  It's still pretty expensive, but if you've got a meeting that absolutely has to succeed, it's probably worth it.

The new videoconferencing services I have my eye on include:

http://bluejeans.com/

https://www.fuzebox.com/

http://meetings.io

http://www.anymeeting.com

...and of course zoom.us.  I agree with you it takes minutes to install a video client but a long time to figure out how to effectively mediate using it.  It is a different beast.  That's why I appreciate your continued work in helping people reach digital fluency!

rah

The software that was being tested seemed more like a multi-party online conference call with ability to 

-talk verbally

-talk in chat box in writing

-share documents/links

And all those features could be useful to a mediaton.  Sometimes the discussion becomes stalled or some problem seems insurmountable and having the option to propose a multi-party online call (with powerpoint/share features) may help.

I haven't tried zoom.us yet but it sounds great.

Krista

 

Giuseppe Leone said:

Krista:

When with a group of mediators we tested Adobe Connect, we came to the conclusion that web conferencing software (e.g. Adobe Connect, GotoMeeting, Webex, FuzeMeeting, and so on) designed for online presentations/webinars don't work well for online mediation. Why? Because online presentations (with a host, presenter, and participants who can "raise their hand" if they have a question) and online mediation (with mediator and parties engaged from beginning to end in an interactive conversation) are 2 different animals.

In my view, the best way to judge an online mediation software is by putting ourselves in the parties' shoes. Ideally, for example, we should run simulations not only with mediators, but also with non-mediators -- people (consumers, small business owners, employees, supervisors) who have never participated in mediation (let alone online mediation) in their life. Unfortunately, all attempts I have made so far to find such people have not been successful.

As in indicated in a previous message I sent earlier to Graham, I believe that from the parties' perspective the technology we use for online mediation should be so intuitive, simple and easy to use to become "invisible". If that is possible (and I'm confident it is) what do they and we need a "technology secretary" for?

Giuseppe




Giuseppe,

The way that you propose to judge online mediation software seems so logical.  I am curious why your attempts have not been successful.

Thank you,

Sara


Giuseppe Leone said:

Krista:

When with a group of mediators we tested Adobe Connect, we came to the conclusion that web conferencing software (e.g. Adobe Connect, GotoMeeting, Webex, FuzeMeeting, and so on) designed for online presentations/webinars don't work well for online mediation. Why? Because online presentations (with a host, presenter, and participants who can "raise their hand" if they have a question) and online mediation (with mediator and parties engaged from beginning to end in an interactive conversation) are 2 different animals.

In my view, the best way to judge an online mediation software is by putting ourselves in the parties' shoes. Ideally, for example, we should run simulations not only with mediators, but also with non-mediators -- people (consumers, small business owners, employees, supervisors) who have never participated in mediation (let alone online mediation) in their life. Unfortunately, all attempts I have made so far to find such people have not been successful.

As in indicated in a previous message I sent earlier to Graham, I believe that from the parties' perspective the technology we use for online mediation should be so intuitive, simple and easy to use to become "invisible". If that is possible (and I'm confident it is) what do they and we need a "technology secretary" for?

Giuseppe



Krista Grace Jessacher said:

A really good look at some of the different Live or "Real-Time" Online Mediation tools.  
I would probably encourage participants to post a business casual photo of themselves (a still photo) rather than the live videocam (unless that particular participant really prefers the videocam for them).
To be functional:
1. Many online mediation participants are going to need a "technology secretary" to handle all the tech windows/prompts/messaging so they can focus on what is being said.  
2. For the younger crowd, participants are really going to want an online mediation system that works on mobile devices, and works well.
3.  Cost has to be reasonable.
4. I would be cautious in an online mediation that participants don't get lost in oversharing on the online platform with the ease of a click of a button, huge volumes of info can be shared (somewhat permanently).  
I would probably prefer something a bit more structured for initially starting the mediation, 
e.g. required to put in your synopsis of the dispute (in writing, one paragraph), 
required to input what you feel are 3 crucial evidence/documents etc (in writing, list of 3 items).
Maybe that could be exchanged by participants prior to this mediation conference call and it is there for participants to review during the mediation process itsefl.  
I agree with Colin that the parties find the process overwhelming and confusing.  And maybe that is why having a Technology Secretary paired with them will help them through the stressful moments.  Because once they are overwhelmed - they will walk away and the mediation won't be a success.  Thank you Giuseppe!

I am currently taking a class on Technology and Mediation.  In addition to exploring topics at Cyberweek we have spent some time this week looking into SMART Technology, SMART Boards, etc.  I have struggled to understand what practical and cost effective value this technology might bring to mediation.  Does anyone here have any thoughts?  

Thank you!

Sara

Sara:

By defining a set of 14 criteria (what mediators and parties need during an online mediation) and assessing how different video conferencing software meets those criteria, we have at least discovered that the software we currently use for our simulations (Zoom.us) is the most suited for online mediation. From this perspective, our review has been very useful.

In addition, not only we now have a much clearer idea of what to look for in a software. We have also seen by ourselves that some software looks interesting "on paper", but when you test it you discover that what you see (in their promotional videos) is not always what you get.

Is there any other software out there, worthwhile to be tested? Certainly. But we haven't found any mediator yet willing to demonstrate it to our group of mediators.

Giuseppe

Sara Giannoni said:

Giuseppe,

The way that you propose to judge online mediation software seems so logical.  I am curious why your attempts have not been successful.

Thank you,

Sara


Giuseppe Leone said:

Krista:

When with a group of mediators we tested Adobe Connect, we came to the conclusion that web conferencing software (e.g. Adobe Connect, GotoMeeting, Webex, FuzeMeeting, and so on) designed for online presentations/webinars don't work well for online mediation. Why? Because online presentations (with a host, presenter, and participants who can "raise their hand" if they have a question) and online mediation (with mediator and parties engaged from beginning to end in an interactive conversation) are 2 different animals.

In my view, the best way to judge an online mediation software is by putting ourselves in the parties' shoes. Ideally, for example, we should run simulations not only with mediators, but also with non-mediators -- people (consumers, small business owners, employees, supervisors) who have never participated in mediation (let alone online mediation) in their life. Unfortunately, all attempts I have made so far to find such people have not been successful.

As in indicated in a previous message I sent earlier to Graham, I believe that from the parties' perspective the technology we use for online mediation should be so intuitive, simple and easy to use to become "invisible". If that is possible (and I'm confident it is) what do they and we need a "technology secretary" for?

Giuseppe



Krista Grace Jessacher said:

A really good look at some of the different Live or "Real-Time" Online Mediation tools.  
I would probably encourage participants to post a business casual photo of themselves (a still photo) rather than the live videocam (unless that particular participant really prefers the videocam for them).
To be functional:
1. Many online mediation participants are going to need a "technology secretary" to handle all the tech windows/prompts/messaging so they can focus on what is being said.  
2. For the younger crowd, participants are really going to want an online mediation system that works on mobile devices, and works well.
3.  Cost has to be reasonable.
4. I would be cautious in an online mediation that participants don't get lost in oversharing on the online platform with the ease of a click of a button, huge volumes of info can be shared (somewhat permanently).  
I would probably prefer something a bit more structured for initially starting the mediation, 
e.g. required to put in your synopsis of the dispute (in writing, one paragraph), 
required to input what you feel are 3 crucial evidence/documents etc (in writing, list of 3 items).
Maybe that could be exchanged by participants prior to this mediation conference call and it is there for participants to review during the mediation process itsefl.  
I agree with Colin that the parties find the process overwhelming and confusing.  And maybe that is why having a Technology Secretary paired with them will help them through the stressful moments.  Because once they are overwhelmed - they will walk away and the mediation won't be a success.  Thank you Giuseppe!

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